Yesterday morning there was a brief warm reprieve from the polar vortex and the ice and snow that had blanketed New York City, so I decided I would run in Central Park.
I have never ever brought my Museum of Modern Art membership card with me when I’ve gone running, but for some reason, I brought it with me yesterday.
About 2 miles into what I was hoping would be a 6-mile run, I received a text from a friend who works at MOMA. It said this: Patti Smith surprise concert MOMA at noon. I quickly phoned Won’t Run aka Dave and told him to get his butt over to 53rd Street (the poor guy was hoping for a nice relaxing day at home).
I arrived at MOMA around 11:15. I saw this on the main floor – there was no other indication that something important would be happening in roughly 45 minutes.
Of course a crowd did eventually form, but it was a polite and civilized crowd. A museum spokesperson came to the mike and greeted everyone. He asked everyone to please be seated on the floor.
And then Patti came out. She said hello. The setting felt intimate. As if Patti was talking and laughing with friends.
I learned that this unannounced concert was not a surprise at all. Rather, it was a yearly tradition by Patti, on the anniversary of the birthday of French novelist, Jean Genet.
She talked about stages in her life and people she knew. People who touched her life, whether recently or 40 years ago. Sometimes she shared vignettes, sometimes poems and sometimes she sang songs.
She read about the extinction of the Dodo bird in “Sleep of the Dodo” which was a message that our individual actions can have an effect (good or bad).
She brought me to tears when she sang a song Papa, dedicated to her father, and made me laugh when she described how she envisioned her mom, if alive, would have reacted to the song.
She ended the performance talking about dark times she had experienced and melodiously moved the conversation to the present political situation. She reminded the audience that we have the power to rise up and be vigilant. With that, Patti Smith led the audience in a powerful sing-a-long of People have the Power.
here’s a short video –
I’ve only known Patti Smith as a rock star, but I learned yesterday with the poems and stories she shared, that she is a tremendously gifted poet and person. Her talent transcends any one type of music or prose. Last night, I sat down at my computer and with wonder read more about Patti Smith and her life.
I think I will mark my calendar for next December 19th.